A Japanese man set himself afire near a bustling rail station Sunday in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo to protest a proposal reinterpreting the Japanese Constitution to allow for a more active military.
The man, appearing to be in his 50s or 60s reportedly survived the immediate incident. Firefighters doused him where he was perched on an pedestrian overpass. He fell and was taken to a hospital in serious condition. He is expected to survive, the Japan Times reported.
A video [NSFW contains graphic images] of the incident shows firefighters spraying the already burning man with water before he falls from the bridge scaffolding.
â€” Thoton Japan,No War! (@Thoton) June 29, 2014
The man spoke through a megaphone for more than an hour to a crowd of curious onlookers. Some reportedly thought he was drunk, homeless or a generally peaceful protester until he doused himself with two bottles of flammable liquids and set himself alight.
"He was sitting cross legged and was just talking, so I thought it would end without incident,” Ryuichiro Nakatsu, an 18-year-old who witnessed the incident said. “But when I came back to the same place 30 minutes later, he was still there. Then all of a sudden his body was enveloped in fire… He was yelling against the government, about collective self-defense.”
The man was speaking out against the controversial proposal from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party for the “right to collective self-defense,” which would allow Japan to defend allies in the event of an attack and expand its military capabilities. Public opinion of the reinterpretation is split nearly down the middle. One poll indicates 55 percent of Japanese polled last week oppose the reinterpretation, but a poll by a conservative daily indicates 70 percent support the proposal.
Proponents of the reinterpretation say it is necessary in light of China’s perceived aggressiveness in the region but many Japanese who grew up in the pacifist post-WWII state fear it will allow Japan to become an aggressive, imperial actor. Since 1947 Japan has only maintained its Self-Defense Forces and has refrained from military involvement abroad, even in U.N. peacekeeping missions where it provided only medical aid.
The reinterpretation focuses on Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan, established following World War II, which states the Japanese people “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.”
Abe has said he hopes his Cabinet will approve a final draft of the proposal by next Tuesday.